stomping out the stress.

This is Part XVIII of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

“How do you handle stress?”

I asked myself this question this morning at—oh, I dunno—somewhere between 7:15 and 7:20AM.

I was driving down the highway, heading to a (very scary/exciting/nerve racking) dietetic job interview, and all of a suddenly the traffic came to a crawl, a step, a stop.

So.

There was the question again.

“Sarah?”

“How do you handle stress?”

“Pretty well, actually,” I smiled to myself.

I took a sip of my coffee, scanning the sun coming over the horizon with a gentle fierceness that woke the world with its glaring rays.

Ah yes.  The guilty subject in today’s sudden traffic jam.

And then the traffic moved on.

Stress averted.

No biggie.

The interview came and went.

Stressful, yes.  But again, it didn’t amount to much.

And then, later in the night, I found myself feeling more and more on edge.

It might have had something to do with this scarf valance that I picked up at JCPenney’s.

source

This was all in an attempt to update my bedroom, which I’m currently in the middle of remodeling.

Mom held the middle of the valence.

And then I attempted to artfully fluff the ends, drawing in a nice “fan” as pictured above.

For an hour.  Two hours.  Three!

“Sarah?”

(that question again)

“How do you handle stressful situations?”

Well.

I’ll tell you.

First, I whined.

Then I tied a giant gaudy bow in the curtain and stated that it looked like a rag.

And then I had a big bowl of oatmeal for dinner, because all I wanted was something carbohydrate based.

Sad but true.

Ironically enough, I was reading a very interesting article in Psychology Today, about how our body reacts to stressful situations.

When we’re stressed, our body sends out a hormone called cortisol which keeps us pumped and ready for action (it also gives us that racing heart when someone cuts us off on the highway!)  Cortisol can shut itself off by signaling this message to the brain, which is convenient during short term stress.

Long term stress however (say you’re at the end of a stressful day, dealing with an unruly curtain..wink, wink 😉 ) causes other nodes in the brain to make you want those rich, energy dense foods.  You know.  Chocolate.  Ice cream.  

Carbohydrates.

The problem is when long term stress happens time and time again, and when food becomes the very sole source that we turn to.

We pile on those rich, heavy foods, which turns into unwanted abdominal fat, which in turn greatly increases our risks for diabetes and heart disease (and the dreaded metabolic syndrome.)

In other words, stress causes us to overeat.  Which makes us put on unwanted weight.  Which makes us more at risk for health problems.  Which makes us more stressed.

What a cycle!

So.

How should we handle stress?

Well, let’s face it.  We’ll all have stressful days when we could care less about eating our vegetables and we care more about calming our racing mind.

But if this is a common occurrence, there are ways to combat the issue.  The same article in Psychology Today recommends exercising, yoga, and hot baths, which have all been proven to give our brains the same relief that food does.

The next time you feel drawn towards your chocolate stash (or towards eating big bowls of oatmeal with coconut and chocolate chips for dinner…oops!), take a deep breath, do a few stretches, go for a light stroll, take a hot bath or journal/read in the Bible/do some jumping jacks.

Give yourself 10 minutes to just unwind in this way.  It can make all the difference!

Oh.

And it’s also important to pinpoint those stressful situations in our lives and make them better.

In other words?

I’m returning the silly curtain.

QUESTION: Are you a “stress eater?”  What are some of your secrets in avoiding this?

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18 comments on “stomping out the stress.

  1. Isn’t it funny that are body automatically turns to food for comfort! I have really learned and put into action the truth that working out is a stress reliever. It has gotten to the point that if I’m having a bad/stressful day Jason will say to me “how about you go to the gym for a class or something.” because he knows that when I come back I’ll be a completely different, happy person! Good luck with your renovations! Who needs a curtain that causes that much stress anyways?! I’m sure there is a much better, cuter, more amazing curtain out there just waiting for you to find it Sarah! 😉

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you, Liz!!

      And I could not agree more, that working out is the ultimate stress reliever. I honestly think I’d go insane without it…haha! 😀

      Love your new blog, by the way! 😀

  2. Katie says:

    Nothing stresses me out more than being in traffic and being late for something…glad you bypassed that one without much of a hitch!

    I think I’ve trained myself to not use food to solve stressful situations, I think – like you did – exercise really helps the most!

  3. Jess says:

    Grrrreat post. 🙂 I’m job hunting, thesis writing, research finishing…flew from coast to coast three times in the last month…had a death in the family…I AM STRESSED. I am a stress eater…but have restarted a core workout routine that helped me a few months ago during stressful times (http://ohsheglows.com/run/abs/) and am forcing myself to run at least three days a week. A Psalm a night helps, too…and lovely blog posts, too! 🙂 Have a great night!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for sharing that link, Jess! 😀

      And I’m so glad you’ve found ways to deal with some of the stressful situations! Because it’s not like we can always get rid of those things (as we can with curtains!) but learning how to deal with them is everything. And I agree, that reading Psalms can be very comforting. 😀

  4. Emily says:

    Ahhh right now in Seattle we are having some major winter yuk weather. The weather is VERY stressful for me. Plus I’m stuck at home because of the weather where I’m rather bored and lonely and within reaching distance of all my food! Uh-oh. I usually run to get rid of the stress but I can’t do that either. Double uh-oh! I just keep reminding me that most of the stress I encounter, LUCKLY, is temporary!!

  5. Aranel says:

    Stress food? I think it is rather in the manner of eating – I somehow grab everything in touch and stuff my mouth. Tiny bits, but urgently eaten. And then, hopefully, my belly lets me know when to stop and begin to sort out the stress effectively. 🙂

  6. Nicole says:

    Ha, ha. I bought a curtain like that and totally returned it too, because it was so frustrating. 🙂 Great post!

  7. I am definitely a stress eater but I never notice it while it’s happening.
    I’ll be ranting about my very shitty day while eating chocolate chips or something and before I know it the bag is gone.
    I find working out right after work to be the most effective way to relieve stress that I didn’t even know I had. Working out in the morning, for me, just doesn’t have the same effect.

    • Sarah says:

      Funny that you mention that, because I don’t notice myself stress eating until after either. I hardly notice that I’m craving carbohydrate rich foods until after the day is done…and then I think back and realize why. 😉

  8. Kori says:

    Is that your new bedroom wall color? It’s very pretty! Last fall I actually came home from a stressful day of grad school & went on a WONDERFUL jog! I am not a runner, but I did complete a handful of jogs last fall. They felt great, & I hope to keep that up this spring. Wintery, cold weather affects my exercising because I love to walk & do things outside during the warmer months, so my sis & I try to be motivators for each other now to exercise inside. 🙂 I honestly deal with stress by venting with my sis because she’s my best friend & knows what to say!! =D

    • Sarah says:

      Yes! It’s an aqua blue/breen color (mostly blue but looks greenish in the evening hours.) 😀

      Best friend sisters are great like that, aren’t they? My sister listens to all my venting too…I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. 😀

  9. BroccoliHut says:

    I think I am a bit of a stress eater, as I usually run for the peanut butter jar during times of high stress (I’m thinking of exam time in particular).

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